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Are the toys included with McDonald's fat-ladened Happy Meals illegal under consumer protection laws? A class action lawsuit claims so.  (Source: Strange Cosmos)

The issue is made more complex by the fact that govenrment farm subsidies are helping keep junk food artificially cheap, and those subsidies are unlikely to go away anytime soon. Thus the government is already intervening to promote cheap junk food.  (Source: ChattahBox)
"Happy Meals" not so happy for children's health, say plaintiffs

America's obesity epidemic is more severe than that of any other large industrialized nation.  In America today, over 30 percent of adults and 15 percent of children are obese.  More so than any other medical issue, obesity is crippling the U.S. economy and health care system.

On Wednesday, a landmark lawsuit was filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest accusing McDonald's, America's largest fast food chain, of luring children into unhealthy eating with toys in "Happy Meals".

Monet Parham, a mother of two in Sacramento, was one of the sponsoring plaintiffs in the case and comments, "I object to the fact that McDonald's is getting into my kids' heads without my permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat."

Remember Joe Camel?

The case is similar in some regards to the class action lawsuits filed against Camel Cigarettes over its use of the "Joe Camel" cartoon character.  While eating junk food isn't illegal for children like smoking cigarettes is, many physicians say the risks associated with obesity are as bad as smoking cigarettes or worse.  It should be noted that Camel Cigarettes was forced to discontinue its iconic character and settle its lawsuits out of court for a tidy sum.

Could the Happy Meal be next?

Lawyers for the CSPI say that McDonald's is both harming children by luring children with the toys and harming its competitors which no longer offer similar prizes with their kids meals.  States Steve Gardner, CSPI litigation director, "Every time McDonald's markets a Happy Meal directly to a young child, it exploits a child's developmental vulnerability and violates several states' consumer protection laws, including the California Unfair Competition Law."

The group was also critical of McDonald's claims that it had made its Happy Meals "healthier" by adding Apple Dippers or low-fat milk as options.  They point out that fries and pop are still the most commonly served options for the Happy Meal.

CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson states, "McDonald's congratulates itself for meals that are hypothetically possible, though it knows very well that it's mostly selling burgers or chicken nuggets, fries, and sodas to very young children."

McDonald's spokesperson Bridget Coffing refused to directly comment on the lawsuit, but defended the happy meals, stating, "We are proud of our Happy Meals and intend to vigorously defend our brand, our reputation and our food.  We are confident that parents understand and appreciate that Happy Meals are a fun treat, with quality, right-sized food choices for their children that can fit into a balanced diet."

What the Suit Means to American's Health, The Fast Food Business

The idea of government courts policing American's eating habits and replacing the role of proper parenting is controversial.  And its important to note that government intervention is partly responsible for the 
success of fast food, as farm subsidies have reduced the cost of beef and corn to much lower levels than Europe and Asia.

For McDonald's, the suit couldn't have come at a much worse time.  The company was just hit by a massive data loss, in which it may have lost as many as 13 million customers' names and email addresses.  And over the last couple years the company's image has been damaged by the nonfiction best-seller/documentary 
Supersize Me.

The case is significant for other fast food companies, as well.  Depending on its outcome, other competitors, like Taco Bell, which does often offer toys with kids meals, may have to eliminate them as well.  And if the practice is condoned by the court, competitors who aren't offering toys may feel compelled to keep up.

In other words, this super-size case may ultimately be the prelude to the U.S. government either practicing a hands-off policy as Americans' waists swell; or opting to try to force consumers to healthier options, via either court rulings or legislation.

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RE: Seriously lady?
By BadAcid on 12/16/2010 4:23:14 PM , Rating: 4
The irony in all this is that McDonald's runs a charity to help families stick together in the face of disease and such.

For the perpetrators of this lawsuit to blame McDonald's for their kids getting fat just shows their inability or complete lack of real desire to maintain families properly themselves.

I hope the judge forces them to enter a Ronald McDonald house to, hopefully, cure them of their hands-off approach to parenting and help the kids overcome obesity.

Poetic justice.

RE: Seriously lady?
By FaaR on 12/16/2010 7:11:11 PM , Rating: 1
I love how you baselessly jump to the conclusion that this woman must be a bad parent. It sure must be awesome to be a multinational supercorporation in america when they have imbeciles such as you voluntarily charging to its defense, without they having to lift a finger.

Don't you feel dirty, being at the beck and call of a multinational, and not even getting paid for it?

Advertising junk food to kids really screws with their heads. This is a known fact, scientifically proven. McD and similar corporate entities don't give a crap about the kiddies that eat at their so-called "restaurants", or their health (other than on a superficial level, so the junk they serve isn't actually toxic or contaminated); IF they cared they wouldn't sell crap loaded to the brim with fat, sugar and salt to children.

This actually is a really big issue, but sticking your head in the sand and blaming everything on the parent won't help you. On the other hand, what goes around comes around. Karma and all that. Enjoy the shitty society you're contributing to, matey... More power to the junk food corps is good in your book, eh?

RE: Seriously lady?
By enlil242 on 12/16/2010 8:00:48 PM , Rating: 4
It absolutley is the parents fault. I grew up under the same umbrella as these kids, and had more to choose. McD's, BK, Jack in the Box, Burger Chef, Hot n Now. My parents probably took me there once a month. I'm not a fat slob and I thank them for that.

RE: Seriously lady?
By Looey on 12/16/2010 8:47:06 PM , Rating: 5
I think you're full of BS. It's the responsibility of every parent to feed their kids. The mother of these kids is simply a bad mother. It's easy to look at your kids and see the fat and do what's right. She is trying to place the blame on others so she doesn't look like what she is, a bad parent. The judge in this case should have her investigated for child abuse.

RE: Seriously lady?
By Warwulf on 12/17/2010 3:14:32 AM , Rating: 5
In order for your arguement to hold water, it assumes that all parents are nincompoops and incapable of doing anything other than catering to every whim of their child. Kids don't care if it's a Happy Meal or not... They just want the goddamn toy. Take them to Toys R Us, for crying out loud.

Eventually, someone has to step up and be the adult here... Take responsibility for the way you raise your children.

RE: Seriously lady?
By HueyD on 12/17/2010 9:05:52 AM , Rating: 5
It's not about "fault" its about who is responsible. The parents need to take responsibility for what their kids eat, watch on TV, who they hang around with, who they date... you know, be a PARENT.

RE: Seriously lady?
By Yames on 12/17/2010 11:55:13 AM , Rating: 5
Exactly, kids don't drive themselves to McD's. That lady needs to learn to tell her kids NO.

RE: Seriously lady?
By FITCamaro on 12/17/2010 9:12:26 AM , Rating: 5
It's absolutely a parents problem. Everything for kids is marketed as the greatest thing in the world. Even if it wasn't marketed to them at all, kids would see or smell it and say "I WANT!!!". It's a parents job to determine what is good for their kids and act appropriately.

Why do they sell it and make billions? Because the parents buy it. What you advocate is a world where the government decides for everyone what is good for them.

If you don't like McDonalds, do what I do and don't buy it. But a parent has the right to buy it and give it to their child if they so choose. But to then not like the results of their poor decisions for their child and want to blame others is the true problem.

Just like automakers selling lots of trucks. They do so because people want them. Advertising only suggests you buy something. If you're to mentally incompetent to not know what is good for you, then you are the one to blame. Not them for getting you to fall for what they said. Now when 4-5 year olds start having jobs again buying things on their own, you can make a case.

RE: Seriously lady?
By Redwin on 12/17/2010 9:56:36 AM , Rating: 5
I think I agree with Fit here.

Should the gov require the company to post nutrition facts so parents have the information to make a good decision for their kids? Probably so.

Should the gov just go ahead and make the decision for the parents? HELL NO.

I drive by 5 McDonalds every day on the way home from work. I stopped and tried the McRib once a couple weeks ago (Spoiler: Not as great as everyone claims, lol). Was first and last time I'd been there in years. Its not like they are forcing you (or your kids) into their restaurant.

RE: Seriously lady?
By The Raven on 12/17/2010 11:46:17 AM , Rating: 1
Advertising junk food to kids really screws with their heads

How do you think McD's reaches the kids? Umm... the parents took them there? Or the parents let them watch too much TV where McD's advertises.

Look since the food is bad for people, let's just ban it altogether, right? I mean that is what you people are saying. You are saying that people can't make smart decisions, or shouldn't be able to do stupid things.

RE: Seriously lady?
By just4U on 12/17/2010 9:30:20 PM , Rating: 2
When I was still in school we had a nutritionist come in and go over alot about food. She also brought up Mcdonalds and her thoughts on it have stuck with me to this day..

She was quite ok with the BIG MAC. Saying how it covered all the essential food groups (if in a round about way) but also went on to say that to eat such things constantly would not be healthy (calorie intake and all that) especially if we were not very active.

She didn't see fast food places as evil at all.. and had quite a good perspective on how they fit into our daily lives and eating habits.

RE: Seriously lady?
By Skywalker123 on 12/18/2010 11:29:22 AM , Rating: 2
Many nutritionists are full of it. They'll tell you that whole grain breads are good for diabetics. Wrong. and the Big Mac has a big white bread bun and is full of fat.

RE: Seriously lady?
By tmouse on 12/20/2010 7:56:00 AM , Rating: 2
And you know more?

Get over it, unless you’re stupid you should know ALL hamburgers are made of meat and fat. McDonalds is probably not much better or worse in that regard. Most places over cook burgers anyways so a lot of the fat is drained out, that’s why they advertise "weight before cooking". Most of the fat in fast food burgers comes from margarine or mayonnaise. The ketchup is also loaded with salt and sugar. Soda, hopefully is self-explanatory. Fries are just pure carbohydrates, and there is very little difference between "whole" grains and white bread. The "whole" grain provides some additional fiber , which is good and if there are actually any whole grains in it can slow absorption of some carbohydrate, fat and salt are just about the same. You could eat most of your meals in a McDonald’s and not get fat, BUT you would have to choose carefully and balance it with additional vegetables (even the salads are mostly lettuce with no nutritional value). You will get just as fat eating similar foods at home.

Not a McDonald’s fan personally, I rarely eat fast food but every once in a while it will not kill the vast majority of people. As it has been said MANY times parents do not have to take their kids there, they have healthier choices if they do and they shouldn’t allow their kids to sit around all day playing video games or watching TV.

RE: Seriously lady?
By sp33dklz on 12/17/2010 2:28:59 PM , Rating: 1
I absolutely love that people are obese, as I choose not to be. I am going into the medical field and it is comforting that there will be plenty of illness and disease to take care of. Kudos McDonalds, for my job security.


RE: Seriously lady?
By Schrag4 on 12/17/2010 2:50:37 PM , Rating: 4
Kudos McDonalds, for my job security.

You totally missed the point here. You meant "Kudos, crappy parents, for my job security." I'll go ahead and beat a dead horse here by pointing out that my kids always want to go to McD also, but we almost never take them there (two or three times a year). Did McD decide that our family won't go? No. As parents we decided.

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